3-Bean Vegetarian Chili

Sometimes, you just have to have chili!

Even if someone’s drawn a line in the sand

Now, I know the world of chili has definite camps of connoisseurs – there are those who think it can’t possibly be chili if it contains beans, or even tomato, and there are others who can’t imagine the dish without them. The line in the sand is firmly drawn, with few trespassing.

However, the subject of a meatless chili moves the dish out of the realm of possibility for a majority of people in both the previous camps. What? Chili with no meat? That’s not chili!

You won’t miss the meat, really

But this one is good. Really good! And, the biggest benefit to me is that everyone in my family can eat it, and enjoy it in many applications.

I love chili and all the wonderful things you can do with it. It’s a perfect main course, dressed up any way you like, but it also serves as a versatile side dish and topping or filling for everything from hotdogs or a salad to burritos or tacos. And it is wonderful to eat by the fire while the chilly spring rains coax the flowers out of the ground! That’s how we enjoyed it this weekend.

Several ways to cook this

I cooked the beans on the pressure setting of the multi-cooker because I’ve usually cooked my dried beans under pressure to save a lot of time. You can easily do this whole dish in a slow cooker or the pressured multi-cooker, but my favorite way to cook a chili is in my Dutch oven, low and slow, with a stir now and then to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. I like the experience of stirring and tasting this dish while letting it cook away in the kitchen all day, the aromas making the house feel snug and comforting.

But, in a pinch, you can cook the beans under pressure and add everything else after they are cooked. Then, either proceed with more pressure, or switch to the slow cooker settings. It’s all about how much time you have and how you feel like cooking on any particular day. You can put this together in the morning in the slow cooker, and you’ll have chili after work.

You can also bring this to a boil, cover, and cook in the oven at 275 for four hours. This requires only the occasional stir.

Getting organized

This looks like a lot of ingredients, and it is, but most of the work is in the chopping, everything else is assembly of pantry and spice rack ingredients. Once you get everything chopped, it is a quick dish to put together and the real time involved is in the simmering. This is a great job to practice your mise en place and have everything ready when you start to cook.

You can start this recipe the night before by soaking your beans. You can also cook the dried beans without soaking in your pressure cooker or multi cooker the day of the dish. Soaking the dried mushrooms gives you not only some nice tender mushrooms to add to the pot, but some lovely soaking juice that adds flavor.


The blooming of the spices is important in any dish. After sautéing the onion and leek, push them aside and cook your tomato paste and spices. It makes are really big difference to the flavor of the finished product.

I’ve added flavor and texture enhancements to make up for the lack if meat. The mushroom adds a subtle background, while the chipotle chilis and adobo sauce add smoke and heat.

Wine and chocolate

The cocoa powder provides the chocolate layer, and the red wine intensifies the whole dish, along with the tomato paste. The rice adds texture, but you can also use bulgur here. I prefer to add the rice toward the end of cooking because it can absorb and incredible amount of liquid, and I want to control that..

In addition to the chipotle, I used cayenne and poblano peppers. These add slightly different types of flavor and heat to round everything out. This is how I made it one day. Taste as you go along and adjust the heat to where you like it. If you don’t want a lot of heat, use just one chipotle and add just a little cayenne, then keep tasting and adjusting. Remember, you can serve this with cheese or sour cream to mellow the heat somewhat.

Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili

1 cup dried kidney beans

1 cup dried black beans


6 dried shiitake mushrooms

1 onion, diced

1 leek, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne

1 large carrot, diced

1 large sweet red pepper, diced

1 large poblano pepper, diced

2 large ribs celery, diced

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1 14-ounce tomato sauce

1 cup red wine

1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup French lentils

2 chipotle peppers, canned in adobo

2 tbsp. adobo sauce from chipotle peppers

1 cup brown or black rice, cooked

Soak your beans, and cook them as you normally would in water, either on stove top or pressure cooked. I cooked mine in a multi-cooker on pressure for 20 minutes and let the pressure release naturally. They were perfect.

Soak your mushrooms. The mushrooms are optional, but add a texture and a lovely flavor to the dish. Place the shiitake mushrooms in a small saucepan with a cup of water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let sit for a half hour.

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the onion and leeks. Saute until the vegetables are soft, and push them to the side. Add the garlic and tomato paste and let these cook for a minute or two, stirring them. Add the cumin, chili powder, paprika, and cayenne and continue to cook to bloom the spices, another minute or two.

Add the carrot, peppers, and celery and mix everything up well. continue cooking until the vegetables just start to soften.

Add the whole canned tomatoes and put the mushrooms and soaking liquid in the can. Add enough water to fill the can and add to the pot. Add the tomato sauce and a can of water as well along with the red wine and cocoa powder.

The chipotle peppers in a can are packed in adobo sauce. Take out two of the peppers and chop them finely with a sharp knife. They will turn to mush. Add these and two tablespoons of the adobo to the pot, reserving the rest for another dish, or for this pot of chili if you like things hotter.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring everything to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 hours or so, until everything is thick and well married. Add the cooked rice in the last half hour and leave the top off the pot to thicken.

Taste at this point and correct the seasoning. Is this at the heat level you like? If you need more spice, add an additional chipotle and more adobo, and perhaps a little more cayenne. Red pepper flakes also add a different type of heat to the pot.

Top with all the usual chili adornments, or leave it plain. We like cheese, avocado, and scallions, but other good toppings are sour cream, yogurt, raw chopped onions, black olives, more hot sauce, or fresh parsley or cilantro.

Serve any way you like chili! Do you always have it with cornbread? Corn chips on the side? Or maybe you like some nice dipping bread.

This makes 14 cups of chili, plenty for the freezer and the rest of the week!

Nutritional information: One little cup is packed with nutrition: under 200 calories, 3 grams of fat, 646 mg of potassium, 32 carbs, 7 grams of fiber (net carbs 25 grams), 9 grams of protein, and is a great source of Vitamins A & C, calcium, and iron.

© Copyright 2019 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read, The New Vintage Kitchen

Contact: Dorothy@vintagekitchen.org


  1. As we approach cooler weather, these types of dishes really resonate with me. I don’t think it’s any less a chilli without the meat. I love the layering of flavour of your recipe Dorothy.

    1. Thank you Kathryn! I really like this recipe too. It has just the right amount of heat, and the smokiness from the chipotle peppers add a nice dimension. I love that we can eat it in many forms all week (the kids love this in nachos and wrapped up in burrito!).

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